Fade to the Start

A look back over Noel and Julian's relationship.


Characters: ,


Genre: ,




Length: words

Fade to the Start by samjen

The interview is nearly over before the inevitable question is asked.

“So,” she smiles at me, “are there any plans for a Mighty Boosh comeback?”

I smile back at her and try to answer the question like it’s the first time I’ve been asked it.

“No,” I shake my head gently, “we decided after the success of the movie that it was time to quit. We wanted to end on a high, before the fans got sick of us!” I give my practiced fake laugh.

“And how’s Julian?”

“Fine… he’s good.”

“We’ve heard he’s writing a novel.”

I make non-committal noises and don’t elaborate. She quickly changes the subject, finishing up the interview by mentioning tour dates. She probably thinks I don’t want to talk about Julian because it takes focus away from the solo work that I’m here to promote. I don’t bother to correct her. The truth is I didn’t know he was writing a novel. I don’t really know anything that’s going on in Julian’s life anymore and that hurts too much, so I try to avoid talking about him, especially in interviews.

Our friendship, relationship, dysfunctional dynamic, whatever you want to call it, fell away in stages:

Stage 1—killing off The Boosh

Stage 2—drawing clear boundaries to our friendship

Stage 3—Julian moving his family out of the city.

At each stage we convinced ourselves that nothing would change. We’d still be ‘us’; our friendship wasn’t defined by where we lived, our work or anything else that we did or didn’t do.

Turns out we were both wrong.

None of the stages were my choice, they were all Julian’s, and I had no option but go along with them. Especially the last one.

Julian said he and Julia didn’t want the boys growing up in London. They wanted them to have fresh air and plenty of space, neither of which you could get in a city. He said we’d still see each other all the time; he’d be down in London regularly for work and there was always plenty of room for me to come and visit at their new place.

Technically, I guess we are still friends. There was no falling out, no agreement not to speak to each other, just a drifting away. Julian drifted away from me, literally and figuratively; emotionally and physically. I know I could call him, invite myself up to visit. But I don’t. He could call me, arrange to spend time together when he’s down here. But he doesn’t. Too much time has passed and neither of us do anything about it and I don’t know if we ever will.

The most significant person in my life just drifted away from me, and I let it happen. It’s heartbreaking just thinking about it. So, no, I definitely don’t want to be talking about him in interviews.

We’ve been sitting together for a few minutes and Julian’s gaze doesn’t meet mine. I can tell something’s wrong. I reach over and cup his face in my hand. He looks up at me and smiles. It’s a soft, sad sort of smile, I think. He takes my hand from his face and brings it down to my lap, leaving it there and clasping his own hands across his stomach.

“You look sad,” I say. “Let me cheer you up.” I move forward and place a gentle kiss on his lips, snaking my hand round his neck and into his hair, drawing him towards me for a deeper kiss. He pulls away from me.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, it’s just… I… I don’t think we should do this anymore.”

“As if,” I laugh, moving towards him again.

He stands up. “I’m serious. I can’t do this anymore.”

“You didn’t seem to have a problem doing this last month. Or was that another Julian Barratt who fucked me upstairs in my bed?” This defensive response is out before I can control it and I know that Julian hates it when I’m like this, when I act like a petulant child. But I’m too stunned by what he’s said to control my tone or choose my words more carefully.

“Don’t be like that.”

“How do you expect me to be, Julian? You’ve just sprung this on me out of nowhere. How am I supposed to react? Shake your hand and say ‘it was good while it lasted.’ Give me a fucking break!”

“I know. I’m sorry. Can we talk about it calmly?”

“No, actually, I’m not sure I can talk about it calmly.” I’m on my feet now too, standing in front of him. He takes a step away from me. He realises what he’s done and makes a show of moving forwards, back to his original standing place, before sitting back down on my sofa.

He’s leaning forward with his head in his hands. He runs his fingers through his hair and sits back up. I’m still standing. I look down at him, waiting for him to say something to me.


“Well?” I prompt. He tries to take my hand to pull me down to sit beside him. I jerk it out of his reach and sit on the armchair instead. I’m glaring at him and he won’t look at me.

“Well?” I ask again. “Do I get a fucking explanation?”

He looks at me this time and he’s running his fingers through his hair again. I can tell from his expression that he’s trying to think of the right words to say. After all these years, I can read him so easily.

“I’m in my 40s,” he finally says.

“I didn’t realise there was an age limit.”

Now it’s him that’s glaring at me. “I’m trying to explain!” The look on his face and his tone silences me instantly and he continues.

“It’s just; I think it’s time we grew up. I think I need to grow up. We’re not the young guys we were when this started. And since we ended work on The Boosh, I don’t know, I just think it’s probably a good time to end…” He breaks into silence, trying to think of a suitable adjective, I imagine. However, he obviously can’t think of something to describe what we have, so instead he just gestures between us. “I mean we can’t have expected to carry on like this forever.” He can tell from my expression that’s exactly what I expected. He can read me as easily as I can him.

“I’ve got responsibilities, a family to think about.”

“You told me that didn’t matter.” My voice sounds shaky and bordering on pathetic, but I don’t care. “You said I was the one constant thing in your life, the one person you couldn’t do without.”

He gets up from the sofa and comes over to where I’m sitting, and kneels in front of me. “I did say that and I meant it. This doesn’t have to change anything, change our friendship I mean, because that’s still the most important thing to me.”

We talk for a long time and he offers more explanations and reassurances, reminding me that there’s more to our friendship than sex. Despite his reassurances, I don’t know how our friendship will transition back to platonic. It’s been so long since we were just friends. I can hardly remember the times before and I don’t know that I want to go back to those times anyway. Not that it matters what I want. It appears that his mind is made up, so I have no choice but to accept it.

Of course we’d had conversations over the years about our ‘friends with benefits’ set up. We’d justified it because we knew it wouldn’t be a threat to our other relationships. We’d laughed at how we weren’t planning on setting up home together, buying a dog, adopting a baby and spending Sunday’s in garden centres. So we could continue as we were and it wasn’t doing anyone any harm, was it?

It’s so easy to justify the good things that you want in life.

Julian’s finding it harder to justify this.

I wake up and it takes a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. I look around trying to piece together the clues to the mystery of where I am. The pieces come to me one by one.

—My head is sore and my throat’s dry. There was obviously alcohol involved in whatever I did last night.

—The room is dark, but looking at the window I can see that it’s morning because the sun is trying, and failing, to break through the thick fabric of the curtains.

—This isn’t my bedroom. It looks unfamiliar, but familiar at the same time. It’s a hotel room.

—There’s an arm across my chest. It’s not my arm. There’s someone lying next to me in bed. It’s Julian.

Suddenly clarity breaks through the morning fug of my brain and all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

—We’re shooting Series 3 of the show.

—I’m in the same hotel we’ve all been cooped up in for weeks now.

—Last night, bored out of our minds, we got raging drunk and caused no small amount of havoc in the hotel.

—Julian is here beside me because, well… just… because of course he’s here.

I curl in towards him and he stirs. “Morning,” I say. He mumbles something incoherent in response and stretches out. I can hear bones crack in his shoulders as he pushes his arms high above his head.

Satisfied with his stretch, he turns to me. “Morning.” He kisses me then says, “Urgh, your breath stinks.”

I feign annoyance and slap him lightly on the side of the head, “You’re not exactly mint-fresh yourself.”

He smiles and rolls over so he’s half lying on top of me and then kisses me again. I put my arms around him and pull him closer, parting my lips to let his tongue in. As we kiss, I can feel his cock hardening against me and it’s still such a rush, even after all this time.

I love lazy, sleepy, morning sex with Julian and it’s a nice change of pace from last night I think, as more memories of the previous evening come back to me.

I’m drunk and fumbling with the keycard that opens my hotel room door. He’s not making it any easier for me to open the door because he’s pressed tight against my back and is rubbing his hand across the bulge in my crotch, his other hand running up my chest under my T-shirt. I snort in frustration until I finally get the door open and we both bundle inside and it’s a flurry of hands and lips, and clothes being yanked off. He’s pushing me down on the bed and we’re kissing; hard, bruising kisses. He’s reaching out with one arm to find the lube on the table, but he’s not looking at what he’s doing and is knocking things to the floor as he tries to reach it. He finally does and we’re both too hard and too needy to take more than the minimum preparation before he’s pushing inside me. We’re both groaning and grabbing at each other and he wraps a sure hand around my cock and it doesn’t take long and I come over his fist and that sets him off and he’s coming inside me. Then we’re crawling under the covers and quickly falling into sleep.

It’s almost at the end of filming and we’re both exhausted from the intense shooting schedule. It’s been hard, but fun, and we’re also both relishing being able to spend this time together. It’s not every night though because Dee’s on set some days when she’s in a scene or doing some filming backstage for the DVD extras. When there’s enough of a break in the schedule Julian goes home to see Julia and the twins. But otherwise we’re together and it feels like such a treat.

I see him before he sees me and I watch him closely, looking, as I’ve become accustomed, for signs of any change. He looks the same, just tired. He finally spots me and a smile breaks across his face as he comes towards me. He asks what I’m drinking and then goes to the bar.

We’ve been holed up in script-editing and pre-production for the show and it’s a rare day off. It’s been a few weeks since the twins were born and this is the first time since then that we’ve spent anytime together, just the two of us. I know I should be happy for him, for both of them, and I am. I really am. But there’s the selfish part of me that worries about how this change in his family life will impact on me. On us.

He comes back over with our drinks and plonks himself down beside me, then takes a long swallow of his drink.

“Ahhh, I needed that,” he says as he puts his glass down on the table.

“Fatherhood driving you to drink already, Julian? They’re only three weeks old. What’ll you be doing when they reach their teens, mainlining heroin?”

He laughs and says, “Heroin is so passé.”

“You’re quoting Dandy Warhols songs at me? What have those kids done to you?”

I put my palm over his forehead. “You don’t feel fevered, so I can only assume you’re an impostor. Who are you and have you done with the real Julian Barratt?”

He laughs again and bats my hand away from his forehead saying he’d love to see me cope with two babies and zero sleep.

We fall into easy banter and it feels like nothing has changed.

People are often surprised, given how intensively we work together, that that we still choose to spend time with each other on our days off. It’s simple really; he’s pretty much my favourite person in the world, so I would always choose time with him over virtually anyone else. I don’t ask him, but I guess he feels the same.

We pass a couple of comfortable hours drinking, talking, laughing. Then he asks if we can go back to my flat and I know what that means so I nod and make to stand up. He laughs and says, “At least let’s finish our drinks first.”

I smile and settle back into the seat, feeling a bit embarrassed.

Back at my flat and we’re lying on the sofa, kissing. “Mmm, I’ve missed this,” he murmurs against my lips.

“I wasn’t sure you’d still want to,” I reply in a quiet voice.

“What? Why?”

“Just because… babies, responsibilities, that kinda stuff. General life stuff. I was worried that maybe you’d, you know, decide you couldn’t, or that it wasn’t… I don’t know…”

I trail off, not wanting to give any more words to my thoughts. He sits up and pulls me up with him and takes both my hands in his. “Nothing’s changed.”

“That’s not strictly true, is it?”

“Well… OK, lots of things have changed. My life, it feels like everything’s different. Good different. I’m not complaining, it’s all good. It’s just; it’s a lot to take in. But you… you’re the one constant thing in my life and I need that now more than ever. I need you. Nothing’s going to change that. OK?”

I nod and then he nods and we kiss again.

I hear the phone ring and it brings me out of my trance. I always get like this when I’m painting. I just zone out on everything else; focussing just on the canvas, brushes and paints. My brother, Mike, said that anything could be going on around me when I’m like this and I’d be completely oblivious. He hammered the point home a bit too much though when he said it one drunken night in the pub. For the rest of the evening I had to listen with good humour to everyone’s suggestions of what could be going on behind my back while I was painting. Everything from orgies to being robbed.

I wipe my hand on my trousers before picking up the phone to answer it.

“Noel, have you heard?!” It’s Julian and he’s practically shouting down the phone. My first instinct is to be worried.

“What it is? What’s wrong?”

“We got it! WE FUCKING GOT IT! BBC3 want to commission a series!”

We’ve been waiting what felt like forever to hear back from them after shooting the Boosh pilot, trying not to get our hopes up too much to avoid a bigger disappointment if it didn’t happen.

“That’s fucking amazing!” I’m almost lost for words. Something that doesn’t happen to me very often, if at all.

“What are you doing right now?”


“Get your skinny arse over here. We need to celebrate.”

It’s just me and Julian celebrating at his flat. He’d called round the others involved in the show but couldn’t get hold of anyone. Not that it matters. It just means that the celebrations have taken the kind of turn they could only take if we’re alone.

We’re lying on his bed, drinking and fooling around. We’re mostly still dressed; tops off but trousers on. Although that’s something Julian’s looking to remedy at the moment as he starts to peel off my jeans.

I sink back into the bed as I feel the familiar warmth of his mouth closing round my cock. He doesn’t keep it there for long though before he’s crawling back up my body.

“I want to fuck you,” he whispers into my ear.

I feel a jolt of something course through me. This is new. In all the time since we started whatever this is between us, it’s something that’s never been mentioned before. It’s always been a flurry of hands and mouths; of kissing and groping.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. I just always assumed that it would be me that’d bring it up first. But it’s good to know he’s been thinking about it too, it’s just taken me slightly by surprise.

I haven’t answered him yet and now he’s looking at me; a frown of concern crossing his brow.

“I mean, we don’t have to. I just thought that maybe—”

I cut him off mid sentence. “I want to.”

He looks like he’s waiting for me to say something else, perhaps to add a ‘but’ to the end of my statement that will turn the positive into a negative.

I repeat myself. “I want to. I want you to fuck me.”

He smiles at me as I reach to take off his trousers. He helps me and they’re quickly discarded, on the floor with the rest of our clothes.

I feel a bit nervous and I can tell that Julian does too.

“We’ll need some, em…” I wave my hand as if I’m trying to think of the right word. For some reason I just can’t bring myself to say ‘lube.’ In my head it feels like it would be a moment killer and I don’t want anything to stop what’s about to happen.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve got some.” He rolls off the bed and rummages through one of his drawers before coming back with a small tube in his hand. He takes the lid off, smearing some of the contents on his fingers and then kisses me before moving down the bed.

I bend my knees so my feet are flat on the bed, giving him access. He wraps one slick hand round my cock moving up and down then I feel his finger pushing slowly inside me. He’s watching me as he does it and I nod to show I’m OK. I can feel him moving in and out of me now. Then he’s adding another finger. I throw my head back and moan “Fuck!” when I feel him do something inside me with his fingers. He laughs a deep laugh and repeats his action and this time all I can manage is an “nmph.”

After a couple more minutes of this I prop myself up on my elbows. I can seem him almost frowning in concentration and I call his name. He looks up at me and I tell him I’m ready.

He carefully pulls out his fingers and takes some more gel from the tube, smearing it over his erection.

I pull him back up to me and kiss him, my tongue pushing eagerly into his mouth. I can feel the tip of his cock at my entrance and encourage him with another kiss. He’s pushing inside me, surely and slowly, and I realise I’ve forgotten to breathe.

When he’s fully inside me he stills for a moment and it’s such an intense look on his face that I think I could come just from that look alone. I wiggle my hips slightly and he smiles and takes the hint, beginning to move again. He’s slow at first and, delicious as the feeling is, I need him to move faster. Almost as if he’s read my thoughts he picks up the pace, pushing one of my knees up against my chest for better leverage as he’s thrusting into me.

It feels so good and he’s hitting me just right. All I can think about is why we’ve never done this before. When I hear him laugh and agree, I realise that I must have said it out loud.

We’re both sweating and slipping together and mostly quiet apart from low moans. Except when I manage to raise my hips to meet his thrusts and it hits deep. When that happens there are shouts; curses, our names, a mixture of the two.

His thrusts are becoming uneven and I can tell he’s close. I reach a hand down to my cock and he closes his hand over mine and we’re working it together. Then I hear him shout “God! Fuck! Noel!” and he’s coming inside me. Just a few more thrusts and I come too, spilling over our entwined hands.

I love Edinburgh during the festival. It feels like the whole world is here for the month of August and the city is vibrant and bustling and alive.

After winning the Best Newcomer Award last year, we were worried about coming back, as there would be some level of expectation this time round. But it’s been great, better than great, in fact. The shows are selling well and we seem to have achieved bit of a cult following. I’m starting to recognise some of the faces at the front of the audience as people come and see the show again and again.

Tonight after the show, Julian and I are buzzing. It went really well, everyone was on fire and the audience lapped it up.

It’s really late, or early, depending how you look at it. Everyone else we’re sharing the rented apartment with has gone to bed. But I can’t sleep, I’m nowhere near ready to sleep and thankfully neither is Julian.

There’s someone sleeping on the sofa-bed in the lounge, so we’re confined to our shared bedroom. The show might be doing well but that doesn’t mean we can afford to rent a place big enough for us to have separate rooms, I guess we should just be grateful that we’ve got a bed each.

We’re both at the top of Julian’s bed, sitting side by side, backs against the wall and shoulders touching. I don’t know why we’re both on the same bed, it’s a single and there’s not really much room. But for some reason it doesn’t occur to either of us to move.

That’s the thing about me and Julian, we’ve always been comfortable with each other, even when we first became friends and started working together. We’ve always been comfortable hugging, holding hands, standing very close together. It’s just as well really. I’m always being told that I’m too touchy-feely and have no concept of other people’s personal space. So it’s good that Julian’s the same. Or at least, he is with me.

We’re drinking a bottle of wine, passing it backwards and forwards between sips. I don’t really like wine but it was all we had in the apartment. The bar we had been in closed a while ago and neither of us wanted to wander around looking for a club to go to, especially not in the rain. As much as I love Edinburgh, I do think I’d love it a bit more if it was somewhere less wet than Scotland.

“I think we’re getting better every night,” I say

“You do?”

“Yeah, like tonight. It was amazing. It was, I mean, I didn’t even have to think about it. I just knew what I had to do and what I had to say.”

“I should think so, you did co-write it.”

I push him playfully. “You know what I mean. It was like instinct or something.”

He pushes me back but a bit too hard and I teeter on the edge of the bed, about to fall, when he grabs me and pulls me back to my sitting position. He leaves his arm around my shoulder and reaches his other arm over to take the bottle of wine from me, raising it to his mouth to drink.

“Well I hope you’re as good tomorrow night; just as instinctual as you were tonight.” He’s taking the piss out of my choice of word, but I don’t mind. I just take the bottle back off him and have another drink.

“Why, what’s so special about tomorrow night.”

“It might just be a rumour but I heard that Steve Coogan’s going to come watch us.”

Now I’m on my knees and bouncing up and down on the bed, because this is great news for us. I pull him into a hug. His arms curl round my back and I can feel him chuckling against my neck. Then a thought occurs to me and I pull away, putting the bottle of wine down on the bedside cabinet.

“When you find out?”

“Stewart mentioned it to me after the show tonight.”

“And you only decided to tell me now?!” I push him again, repeatedly, in time with my words. “You bastard! Why didn’t you tell me straight away?!” My voice has risen in indignation, but I’m not really annoyed. I can’t be annoyed because this news is too good.

“Stop pushing me! I think this is turning into one of those abusive relationships you hear about.” He’s laughing and I am too and I’m still pushing him. “Will you stop doing that!” I shake my head and keep pushing until he grabs me by the shoulders and forces me down on the bed, my back against the mattress, him hovering above me. We’re both still laughing.

And then we’re not.

We’re staring at each other and suddenly the situation doesn’t seem as funny any more.

There’s a weird sort of tension. I’ve felt it before between us but I usually try to ignore it. This time though, with him leaning over me, I can’t ignore it. We hold those positions, just staring at each other, for what stretches out like years. Then we’re moving. I don’t know who moves first, maybe it’s at exactly the same time, but we both move closer to each other and then we’re kissing.

My hands automatically snake round his back, and he’s still holding on to my shoulders. It’s sloppy and messy and I can feel his tongue pushing into my mouth. I pull him tighter to me, so he’s practically lying on top of me and I curl a leg around his thigh. His hands move from my shoulders, one coming up to card through my hair and the other moving under my T-shirt and across my ribs. My own hands are scrabbling at the hem of his shirt and pushing under the fabric, exploring the warm skin of his back.

We’re kissing rough and hard and the only noise is the sound of our breaths.

I can feel myself getting hard and that freaks me out a bit until he moves slightly. Now his hip is pushing against my erection and the sensation makes me forget everything else.

I squirm against him, wanting more pressure against my cock and I can feel that he’s hard too.

He pulls away from my lips, which feel swollen and sore, and he’s kissing and biting at my neck. His hands are moving again, this time down to the top of my jeans and he runs them lightly over the fabric, brushing my cock and causing me to inhale sharply. He pauses for a moment and lifts his head to look at me. We lock eyes. I don’t say anything. I don’t think I could form words even if I wanted to. So instead I lift my hips, silently encouraging him to continue. I pull him down to kiss me again and can feel him fumbling with the zip of my jeans. I move my own hands down to his jeans to unzip them too. We’re quickly lying with trousers and pants pushed down to our knees.

He adjusts our position then takes both our cocks in his hand. It sends sparks everywhere over my body when he starts moving his hand up and down our shafts, slowly at first. He lifts the pace quickly and I know I’m not going to be able to hold back for long between the feel of the heat and the friction on my cock and the taste of his tongue in my mouth.

We’re not kissing any more just breathing over each other and his breathe is sharp and ragged, like my own. Then I feel him tense and feel the warm, wet sensation of him coming over my stomach. It only takes a few more strokes of his hand before I’m coming too, biting down on my lip to stop from shouting out.

I’ve seen his stand-up a few times now. Some of my friends had thought I’d like his stuff, they said it was similar to what I did. How they actually put it was ‘this guy talks shite and doesn’t have any proper jokes either.”

I’d talked to him after a gig. I told him that I did stand-up, that was a bit like his and tried to explain the kind of stuff I did. He’d seemed a bit stand-offish at first. Although that’s probably my fault, because I just bounded right up to him like we were already friends, babbling away, and I guess he didn’t know how to take me.

When I came to the gig tonight he’d asked me to fill a slot on the programme; someone had cancelled at the last minute. I was nervous, but it went well, and I was pleased that he’d seemed impressed. It was one of my better gigs, if I’m honest.

His set’s finished now too and we’re at the bar talking and I feel like we’ve finally clicked, that he finally gets me. And it’s great and it’s easy. He’s making me laugh and I’m making him laugh.

We’re falling over each other to share different stories and the ideas are just flowing between us. I start a story and he picks it up and runs with it and vice versa. I’m feeling excited about this and we’re already talking about how we could work together.

It’s kicking out time at the bar now and he offers me a lift home. I accept because it saves me getting a taxi, but mainly because I want to keep talking to him. I think I could never get bored of talking to him.

We get to my flat and I ask him if he wants to come up for a cup of tea. He says yes and follows me up the stairs.

As we get to my front door I turn to him and say:

“You do realise that if you come in you can never leave.”

“That’s alright,” he replies, “I don’t have much on anyway.”

The End

+ posts